FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2018-17
Date of Issue: June 30, 2018

ISSUE

May the inquiring judge serve as a member of a statutorily created council that nominates veterans to receive awards recognizing their service?

ANSWER: No.

FACTS

The inquiring judge wishes to serve as a member of a council that annually nominates military veterans for awards recognizing their service. The council was created by statute and its membership consists of several state-level government officials and appointees. Each year, the council accepts nominations for veterans on whom to bestow official honors. It then selects up to twenty veterans to be recognized at an annual awards ceremony.

 

DISCUSSION

Canon 5C(2) governs here. It states:

A judge shall not accept appointment to a governmental committee or commission or other governmental position that is concerned with issues of fact or policy on matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal system, the judicial branch, or the administration of justice. A judge may, however, represent a country, state or locality on ceremonial occasions or in connection with historical, educational or cultural activities.

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 5C(2).

In Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinions 06-04 and 93-42, a judge asked whether the canons permit judicial participation in a congressional committee responsible for selecting nominees to the country’s military academies. This committee responded that such participation was not permitted, as a congressional selection committee was a “government committee or commission or other governmental position that is concerned with issues of fact or policy on matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal system, the judicial branch, or the administration of justice.” See Fla. JEAC Ops. 06-04, 93-42. The rule only allows a judge to participate “in a governmental committee or commission or other governmental position” on matter of facts or policy if the committee, commission, or position relates to “the improvement of the law, the legal system, the judicial branch, or the administration of justice.”

This veteran council is concerned with the qualifications of veteran nominees, an issue that does not relate to the improvement of the law, the legal system, the judicial branch, or the administration of justice. Moreover, we have disapproved of membership on other committees dealing with non-legal matters in previous opinions. Compare Fla. JEAC Op. 04-05 (approving of judge’s participation in advisory Commission on the Status of Woman because commission was concerned with the improvement of the law, legal system, or administration of justice) with Fla. JEAC Op. 87-05 (disapproving of judge’s formal membership on county fine arts council because it was concerned with issues of fact or policy not related to the law). Therefore, we recommend that the inquiring judge not participate in the council.

 

REFERENCES

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 5C(2).
Fla. JEAC Ops. 06-04, 04-05, 93-42, 87-05.

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The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee is expressly charged with rendering advisory opinions interpreting the application of the Code of Judicial Conduct to specific circumstances confronting or affecting a judge or judicial candidate.

Its opinions are advisory to the inquiring party, to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, and to the judiciary at large. Conduct that is consistent with an advisory opinion issued by the Committee may be evidence of good faith on the part of the judge, but the Judicial Qualifications Commission is not bound by the interpretive opinions of the Committee. See Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges, 698 So. 2d 834 (Fla. 1997).However, in reviewing the recommendations of the Judicial Qualifications Commission for discipline, the Florida Supreme Court will consider conduct in accordance with a Committee opinion as evidence of good faith. See id.

The Committee expresses no view on whether any proposed conduct of an inquiring judge is consistent with substantive law which governs any proceeding over which the inquiring judge may preside.  The Committee only has authority to interpret the Code of Judicial Conduct, and therefore its opinions deal only with whether the proposed conduct violates a provision of that Code.

For further information, contact Judge Miguel de la O, Chair, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, Eleventh Circuit, Miami-Dade County Courthouse, 73 W. Flagler Street, Room 1407, Miami, FL 33130.

Participating Members:
Judge Michael F. Andrews, Judge Roberto Arias, Judge Nina Ashenafi-Richardson, Judge W. Joel Boles, Judge Miguel de la O, Judge James A. Edwards, Judge David Green, Mark Herron, Esquire, Judge Barbara Lagoa, Judge Spencer D. Levine, Judge Michael Raiden and Charles Reynolds, Esquire.


All Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee opinions, subject matter indices, and a search engine are available on the Sixth Circuit’s website at www.jud6.org under Opinions. Committee opinions and related finding tools are also accessible on the Florida Supreme Court’s website at www.floridasupremecourt.org as a secondary posting under Court Opinions.


Copies furnished to:
Inquiring judge (Name of the Inquiring Judge deleted)
Justice Charles T. Canady, Justice Liaison
John A Tomasino, Clerk of Supreme Court
All Committee Members
Executive Director of the Judicial Qualifications Committee
Office of the State Courts Administrator